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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

Klootz managed to approach Pain


next day Pain complained of the bad food he was given; but the Dervishes gave him wholesome instruction: they told him that the true adherents of the Mahdi were dead to the things of this world. Poor Pain's mind must have been sadly disabused by this reception.

The Dervishes were full of curiosity about this strange Frenchman's doings and intentions, and kept worrying us to know why he should have come; but it was also a mystery to us; and when they asked him, he always gave the same answer--"The whole of the European nations, more especially France, and with the one exception of England, entirely sympathised with the Mahdi." He was asked if the Senussi had risen against the unbelievers in Egypt; but he replied that the Senussi feared the English. When asked what the English were doing, he replied that they were building forts at Assuan; whereupon Ali Bakhit observed--"May God destroy their forts." But, question as they would, Pain's arrival and his reasons for coming still remained a mystery to them. He was therefore sent, in charge of a large escort, to Mahmud at Rahad; Mahmud received him well, gave him a horse and a female slave, and sent him on to the Mahdi, who was then on his march to Omdurman.

On the 28th of August Pain arrived at Aigella, where one of our El Obeid Mission brothers was staying; the latter at once inquired of Pain what he was going to do. On this occasion, it appears, he spoke more openly;

he asked if the brother understood French; but the latter replied that he could not speak it, though he understood it. Then Pain proceeded to say that he was correspondent of a newspaper, and came to see the Mahdi and his empire, about which he intended to write full accounts to his paper.

This brother endeavoured to explain to him the difficulties he would be sure to meet with, and on what dangerous ground he was treading, adding that it was most unlikely he would ever return; but Pain replied that if he succeeded in his undertaking, he would receive an immense reward; and that hitherto the Dervishes had not treated him badly; moreover, he was full of energy, and would not give up hope of escape in the future. Pain also explained to the brother the difficulties with which the English expedition would be sure to meet, and how he believed Khartum would certainly be lost.

Pain caught up the Mahdi at the village of Busata. Various were the surmises of those in camp regarding his intentions. Slatin, Klootz, and the other Europeans were especially perplexed. Olivier Pain had imagined that the immense services which he would be able to render the Mahdi would cause the latter to receive him with open arms; but the poor man was sadly deluded. He was presented to the Mahdi, who greeted him coldly, and asked him his reasons for coming. Pain replied--"To acknowledge you as Mahdi, and to lay before you the submission of the French nation." The Mahdi gave an ironic smile, as much as to say he did not believe a word Pain was saying; and then he ordered Abu Anga to take charge of him, guard him most carefully, and permit no one to see him.

During the march to Shatt, Klootz managed to approach Pain, and began talking to him; but for this disobedience he was at once seized and put in chains. On Slatin's representations, however, to the Khalifa Abdullah, he was released.

At Shatt, Pain began to suffer from dysentery and fever, brought on by over-fatigue and bad water. The Mahdi permitted Slatin to visit him; and Pain's wretched condition so disturbed Slatin that he begged the Mahdi to give him a little money, with which he could buy some better food, which it was absolutely necessary Pain should have.

But his disease became worse; and it was with the greatest difficulty he could continue his march to Om Sadik. Here his condition became hopeless; he explained that he could go on no longer, and begged for some medicine. The custom in the Sudan is to drink melted butter; and after Pain had taken a little, he was placed on a camel; but it had scarcely gone a few steps, when he was seized with a fainting fit, and fell off. As he lay unconscious on the ground, and was deathly pale, his guards believed that he must be dead; so they dug a rough grave, in which poor Pain was laid, covered him over with sand, and then hurried on. It is quite possible the unfortunate man was not dead. They marked his grave by planting his stick in the sand, and tying his sandals to it. This event occurred on the 15th of November, 1884.

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